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Let It Go
by Dennis Maddox
The next best thing to playing baseball in the spring is watching it. I just love the game. I played several sports as a kid but baseball was and is my favorite. I was born and raised in the Savannah, Georgia area and have never left. I played baseball in high school for 2 years at Tompkins High School in 1973 and 1976. Our home field was 1 of 4 fields in Daffin Park. I tried out for 2 Junior College teams and made both but decided not to follow my “field of dreams.” As time passed I eventually got married and we went on to raise 2 amazing kids. I had the pleasure (and sometimes agony) of coaching both of my kids in baseball, softball, football and basketball. During this process I was able to pursue my real dream of becoming a Minister of Music- (old school name for Worship Pastor).
After 37 years in the music ministry, I feel like I’ve learned an incredible amount about being a Worship Pastor and Leader-(ministering to people as well as to the Lord). However I know I will never learn it all and I must remain open not only to God but people as well. When I first got saved and filled with the Spirit, the people that resisted me the most were not sinners but religious people. After studying God’s Word, I realized that this has always been the case. Jesus ran into it everywhere he went. (Matt 12). I have always strived to listen to songs that other churches and bands are currently doing and then adapt the best songs that I think will fit our church worship services. There’s nothing like a fresh anointed song. That being said I believe every song has a shelf life. Some become ‘staple’ songs that can be pulled out for special occasions others- not so much. Also, musical styles come and go but the Word of God is eternal. (Rev 14:6). I have adapted to many different styles: Hymns, CCM, Jazz, Pop and Black Gospel. To me it’s about the words contained in the song and are they singable for the congregation. I don’t like for our team to worship without the congregation. In that case, it’s just a performance. Thus, I have vowed never to become religious and stuck in my ways. I believe God is always doing a new thing with a new emphasis for every season (Eccles. 3:1) and I want to be in the middle of that season at all times.
Getting back to sports, I’ve always had a disdain for soccer. During recess in elementary school (I’m dating myself- I know) we would play kick ball and dodge ball with the classic 10 inch red ball. We had a teacher one year that wanted to expose us to a sport that was big in Europe called soccer. I grew up in a poor community and some of the kids didn't have tennis shoes. A lot of them wore dress shoes, as that’s all they had. Needless to say I got kicked in the shin more than a few times with hard sole shoes. With bruises all over my legs and the lack of being able to use my hands, I viewed soccer as a painful, frustrating sport. During my baseball coaching days, I watched soccer becoming more and more popular. I observed soccer fields replacing baseball fields all over my county. I even went to county meetings to try and stop this onslaught on baseball. How could they tear up outfields with soccer cleats? How could they brain-wash our kids into playing this foreign sport that is full of tripping, kicking and knee surgery? How could they replace American apple pie with Tacos? To top it off-my son decided to play soccer his last 2 years of high school. I’m now in sack cloth and ashes. Is there no mercy? I begrudgingly went to his games. No one would sit by me as I complained about the lack of scoring, the use of yellow and red cards and the mindless running back and forth up and down the field. And let’s not forget about the goofy rule where the referee makes up how much time to put back on the clock when the game was suppose to end (as if 3 hours wasn’t enough suffering). I know at this point you're tired of my whining. My neighbors and good friends that live beside me can testify about my bitterness toward soccer. Their 3 kids are athletes and have been playing soccer all their lives. It’s gotten to the point where they don't even bring the subject up around me. I’ve gone as far to compare soccer to ISIS, a plan to infiltrate the USA with terrorists.
I’ve said all this to share what happened to me last weekend. Spring in Savannah is gorgeous. The grass is starting to green up, the azaleas and dogwoods are blooming and the weather is perfect for baseball. Last Friday, I got in my convertible roadster and ventured out to see my nephew play a high school baseball game in the historic Grayson Stadium the same stadium where I played the Easter Tournaments in high school. The same stadium that Shoeless Joe Jackson supposedly played Minor League Ball in.The same stadium that Babe Ruth played an exhibition game in. The same stadium that Mickey Mantle played a Minor League game in. The same stadium Dale Murphy played Minor League Ball in. As I made the right turn from Waters Ave onto Washington Ave I fully expected to pass by the baseball fields in Daffin Park, where I played baseball in high school. Much to my dismay I see literally thousands of people watching and playing soccer games from one end of the park to the other. I went from joy to depression in one second. Then I heard a still small voice inside me say, “The same distaste you have for soccer is the same distaste that traditionally religious people have for modern praise and worship.” This revelation wasn’t death to baseball. It was the undeniable fact that this new generation really enjoys soccer and I shouldn't stand in the way of their pleasure. It may seem insignificant to you but I had a new tolerance for soccer-a new grace- if you will- towards the black and white ball.
So I understand how your hymns may seemed to be threatened when you listen to an 18 year old in ripped up skinny jeans with one side of his head shaved sing the same chorus over and over. Maybe it’s not hymns you’re missing. It could be Hillsong, Integrity or Maranatha! songs from the 90’s that you dig. The idea is not to get stuck. I have empathy with the senior crowd as they see musical standards slip away. I feel your pain. You must understand it’s a new day for soccer and a new day for praise and worship. If soccer makes people happy, who am I to critique. If modern praise and worship gets people in the presence of God, who are you to judge. Rest assured “Amazing Grace”, “How Great Thou Art”, “Blessed Assurance” and “Shout to the Lord” will always be with us, but never close your heart and mind to what God is doing now. Do like I did- Just Let It Go.